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Abp. Charles M. Bo SDB

Chairperson, FABC Office of Human Development

Your Grace Archbishop, Your Excellency Bishop, Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you very much for your warm welcome.  Korea has a very special place in the lives of Myanmar.  Our Youth know more about Korea than our generation, admire you for the leadership in economy, hard work, culture and creativity.  Korean Church’s generous contribution to the development of various churches and people in Asia is highly commendable.   As the Chairman of the Human Development, FABC, I owe you all, a debt of gratitude. Thank you for your Christian compassion, warmth and generous fellowship.

The topic today is solemn and very urgent:  It is fitting that we have listened to a very inspiring and poignant story of Cheju by Bishop Peter Kang.  Blessed are the peace makers (Mt 5) says Jesus.   When nations try to settle scores, through arrogant and self defeating with weapons and militaristic  adventurism, it is consoling to see the Church reasserts her duty as the conscience keeper and peace maker.   It was Mahatma Gandhi, the great apostle of Non -Violence in Asia who said “An eye for an Eye makes the whole world blind.”.  Your effort at reconciliation is laudable.  After listening to His Excellency  Bishop Peter Kang, we feel your pain deeply. On behalf of the people of Asia, we wish to stand in solidarity with you today.   This planet can be saved only by peace and what you do in Cheju has great reverberations in the whole of Asia and World.  Blessed are the peace makers, says our Lord. Blessed be your great efforts at  promoting peace and understanding among  people. Victory will be yours.

Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Peace, Environment and Ecology. It is fitting that I speak today of Peace in relation to true development. It is all the more fitting since it is related to Development.

The peace prayer attributed to him spells out its focus on building a society based on sharing and solidarity, giving and forgiving based on love, unity and Justice.

I am happy to share with you some of the areas of concern related to Peace and development in Asia.

First of all I want to congratulate the Archbishop Peter Kang and all the Church leaders and laity for their peaceful and firm stand for people in the issue of Jeju. In keeping with the Biblical precepts and the Social Teaching of the Church, I wish and pray for true peace and amicable solution to this issue and any similar issue involving the Rights of the vulnerable people.

Pope Paul VI spoke that Development is the other name of Peace: We are not talking just about absence of war or violence. It is not a passive peace but an active peace that leads to be totally involved in the struggles of the individual and society in its multidimensional development.  We hear of many countries developing in economic growth based on industrial production and commerce. But we need to critically evaluate and see if there is holistic human development. It is high time to critically check as to who gains most from these developments and who are left out in this growth parameters.

  • Development of few at the cost of many has become the norm of the day. This ultimately ends in exploitation, inequality and injustice.
  • Development of many by conscious or unconscious exclusion of few is also not satisfactory as this again ends up with discrimination and lack of inclusive development.

Biblical definition of development and welfare is explained by the parable of the lost sheep. The true shepherd is not satisfied with the safety and security of most or many i.e. Ninety nine just ones. But he is ready even to leave the 99 in the wilderness and pays fullest attention to the lost one so that all the 100 sheep will share welfare measures. The Kingdom of God is for all. But this kingdom cares for those in need of primary attention. The true joy and satisfaction comes only when the special attention is given at the first place to the lost and the least.

The parable of the vineyard (Mt. 20: 1-16) speaks of the owner of the vineyard employing workers at 9am, 12pm, 3pm and 5pm. At 6pm, he starts paying to the last team of workers who worked only for one hour. He does not reduce the wage of the one who worked full day. He pays the wage starting with the last man first. He was the unwanted worker for the whole day, His wife and children awaiting for his return with some money for their food and survival. This last man’s needs is to be attended first. This is the Compassion of God towards the neglected. It is a deliberate option for the poorest of the poor. This does not block in any way the welfare measures of others. It is a true model of holistic development needed for peace today. There is no peace without justice and there is no peace without Human Rights.

Peace is a Right. Everyone is entitled to live in peace, harmony as a result of the multidimensional well-being of human person and society. Hence we need to spell out how this must be actualised by the Religious Leaders, Civil and political leaders, by the families, women, children and youth and people at large. Today we have to work for peace through the Rights Based Approach to Development and welfare.

Peace Vs War and Violence: Another Cause of Concern for us when we speak of Peace is the threat of war in the world as this takes away the entitlements that belong to the poor and the deprived.  The world spends for Basic education just 6 billion US Dollars, and for Water and sanitation $9b, it spends for military spending is 780 Billion USD. This shows where our world’s priority lies. We are living in a Culture of threat and violence. Up to 1000 people are killed on an average by small arms everyday (500,000 every year) around the world. For every $1 spent in development assistance $10 is spent on military budgets. There are roughly two bullets for every person on the planet.

The Catholic Social Teachings focuses on the disarmament and mutual dialogue in view of peace and development.

  • The Synod of Bishops spells out clearly that arms race is a threat to man’s highest good, which is life; it makes poor people and individuals yet more miserable while making richer those already powerful; it creates a continuous danger of war; and in the case of nuclear arms, it threatens to destroy all life from the face of the earth. (Justice in the World, 1971 [# 9]
  • Pope Paul VI said, “When so many people are hungry, when so many families suffer from destitution, when so many remain steeped in ignorance, when so many schools, hospitals and homes worthy of the name remain to be built, all public or private squandering of wealth, … every exhausting armaments race becomes an intolerable scandal. -Pope Paul VI, On the Development of Peoples “ (Populorum Progressio), 1967 [# 53]
  • When countries were focusing on World Wars, Pope Pius XII said, “Nothing is lost by peace; everything may be lost by war” (Broadcast message of 24.8.1939)

The key themes of the Catholic Social Teaching speak of true peace and development in reference to the poor and the unwanted:

  1. Working for Human dignity. 2. Focus on social welfare and Community based life. 3. Special attention and Option for the poor and the marginalized in the society 4. Playing a prophetic role against structural injustices. 5. Working for Economic Justice 6. Standing for Civil and political Rights whenever such rights are violated. 7. Special concern for the Socio-cultural wealth of the indigenous peoples 8. Excercising the Stewardship of Creation especially by working on concrete issues like Global Warming and climate Change. 9. Lobby with the socio political and Government leaders for good governance through special duty towards the neglected. 10. Promotion and Protection of Women and children.

Peace through Development with entitlements: The principles of the social doctrines of the church focus on the Right to Development through the entitlements of all, especially the poor and the marginalized. This refers to social, economic and Cultural Rights as well as the Civil and Political Rights of every person and society. When these areas are fulfilled, we can speak of true development and true peace.  Therefore the prophetic stand of the Church for Peace leads one to denounce the evil forces like discriminations, exploitations, structural violence, social injustices, terrorism and lack of concern for the nature and cosmos leading to global warming and climate change.

Peace and Development in Asian context: The Office of Human Development of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences is happy about this great network of committed thinkers at this Asian Theology Forum. The masses of Asians continue to suffer injustice and Human Rights Violations. Hence in 1970 in Manila, FABC proclaimed openly, “We are proud to be part of these masses; we acknowledge our failures; we resolve to be the church of the poor. We commit ourselves to an equitable distribution & socially responsible use of land other resources. And we decide to carry out a dialogue with the poor”.

This cry of the Church in Asia for true development in concrete refers to the poor and the marginalised like the Migrants, the indigenous Peoples, slum dwellers, rural women and children etc. neglected of their entitlements to development, Their basic right to life is also under risk as there is neglect of their Right to health and Education, Right to life and dignity, Right to Peace and development. The Church in Asia has a perennial home work and mission to divert their whole hearted attention to these under multi-layer neglect

The Synod of Bishops tells that our mission demands that we should courageously denounce injustice, with charity, prudence and firmness, in sincere dialogue with all parties concerned. In this connection, I am proud and happy about the peaceful and non-violent Campaign of the Korean Church on recent issues. I congratulate Bishop Peter and all his collaborators for their stand for truth.

In Asian context, while speaking of development, one cannot neglect that the Church by and large is a rural church. Most of our members continue to stay in Rural areas with all their drawbacks. And a good number of them end up in towns as migrants, unemployed and underemployed. In this context, the church has a special duty to carry forward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to achieve welfare of the lowliest.

Church, like a true mother has special concern for the weakest child under top priority. She boldly cries aloud to every son and daughter to be freed from the clutches and temptations of power, name, institutionalism etc. that keeps one away from such special focus on the weakest. The Asian church has the following mission through her individual and collective commitment:

  • to pitch one’s tent amidst the marginalised, the oppressed and the forgotten
  • to join hands with all, both haves and have-nots to work for the welfare of all, knowing that this is possible only when it begins with the welfare of the least, lost and the last.
  • to turn towards the downtrodden, the migrants and Indigenous Peoples who are cut off from true development and welfare
  • to appeal to the Governments, other religious leaders and other socio-political leaders to work for the marginalised under top priority

May the power of the Jesus the poor who went about preaching a vibrant peace, bringing Human dignity, strengthen all the deliberations and proceedings of this important conference to concretely respond to the weakest, the poorest and the lowliest in the name of true peace and development.

Thank you


<Asian Theology for the Future>, Seoul : WTI 2012